Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughOld Lady goes unbeaten and says goodbye to her greatest son (Video) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Old Lady goes unbeaten and says goodbye to her greatest son (Video) - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Old Lady goes unbeaten and says goodbye to her greatest son (Video)

As The Premier League brought us all to an electrifying climax this year, Manchester City showed the world that a new European force had arrived on the world stage as Vincent Kompany lifted the title for the first time in 44-years. But as the curtain was lifted in England, There was a curtain call in Italy The Old Lady paid homage to her greatest ever goalscorer.

 57 minutes were on the clock when the board went up showing No10 in Turin, calling time on Alessandro Del Piero’s last home appearance for the Bianconeri in Serie A.

Del Piero had been congratulated individually by every one of his team-mates on his way off the field and the Italian legend gave Juventus’s fans wanted the same opportunity. At first he walked over to take his place on the bench, stopping to sign one young fan’s autograph as he went, but no sooner had he sat down than the 40,000 in attendance were calling him back to his feet, demanding an encore.

Twice he stood to wave, but quickly it became clear that even this would not be sufficient so set off on a lap of honor, walking around the edge of the pitch and collecting the scarves which fell at his feet like flowers on the stage of Paverotti. Supporters openly wept as Del Piero fought back his own tears -“I pretended to tie my shoelaces at one point, so people wouldn’t see me cry.”

Many supporters continued to protest against the decision to let their captain leave, begging for one more year, but while this season has shown Del Piero still has the qualities to contribute; it is also hard to imagine a more perfect parting. After 19 years its safe to say he has seen it all – being stripped of title medals for 2005 and 2006 along with relegation from the top flight due to match fixing (which resulted in Juventus being in Serie B for the first time in their history) – to lifting the World Cup in 2006 and having his playing position described as “Gol alla Del Piero”, aka, “The Del Piero Zone”.

He had given those supporters one last goal to remember him by, fooling everybody as he shaped to fire one way from the edge of the D before crashing the ball into the opposite corner. That strike, in the 28th minute, had helped his team to complete their unbeaten league season – becoming the first-ever Serie A side to do so in a 38-game campaign. Previously Milan had gone unbeaten over 34 games in 1991-92, and Perugia over 30 games (though they failed to win the league) in 1978-79.

Monday’s newspapers would carry all the statistics you could ever wish to know about his remarkable career. In 19 years, Del Piero has played 704 games for Juventus, enjoying a total of 48,785 minutes on the pitch. He has scored 289 goals, hit the woodwork 68 times and missed 12 penalties. He has won 387 games, drawn 197 and lost 120. He has been shown 50 yellow cards, and just two red.

To an extent, like many great players who have graced the game, all of those figures feel meaningless. Del Piero’s career should not to be expressed in statistics, but for the memories – a shy but talented teenager who announced his arrival from Padova with a goal against Reggiana back in 1993, of the young man who marked his father’s death by scoring a beautiful goal against Bari in 2001, of the 30-something who finally put all those international disappointments behind him by scoring the second goal in Italy’s 2006 World Cup semi-final win over Germany.

If so many tears were shed for Del Piero on Sunday, it is not for the goals that Juventus will now miss (even though he has been crucial on occasion this season, not least in providing a late winner against Lazio) but because his departure marks the end of an era, both in the team’s history but also fans’ lives. “He will always be our captain,” said the club’s president, Andrea Agnelli, but like the retirement of Zidane – it’s the harsh realization that all great players must eventually hang up their boots.

And so the supporters are left with uncertainty, just as they are over Del Piero’s next step. The forward has confirmed his intention to keep playing, noting that “I have my whole life to be a director” and hinting at an interest in English football but adding that he has nothing lined up as yet. “It has been 19 years since I had to worry about transfers,” he said. “The only thing I want to underline right now is the relationship that has developed between me and the people here at Juventus over the last 20 years.”

Two decades which are now coming to an end. Thank-you “Pinturicchio”, you earned that nickname for the art you created, and rightly so.

Ross Fisher

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